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Blackstar Amplification made an impressive debut six years ago with various tube amps that offered outstanding sound, versatility and value, and over the years the new series of tube amps it has introduced have remained faithful to those attributes. With the introduction of the ID Series, Blackstar is taking a similar approach with solid-state designs, but the ID Series is not solid-state as we know it. These amps combine the tone and feel of a tube amp, the rugged dependability of solid-state and the sonic versatility of digital modeling, resulting in one of the most musically satisfying solid-state guitar amp designs ever conceived.Blackstar currently offers six different ID Series amps, which range from a 15-watt combo with a single 10-inch speaker to a 100-watt half stack. For this review, I looked at the latter, the ID:100TVP head, paired with the HTV-412A angled 4x12 speaker cabinet (Blackstar also offers the matching ID:412 4x12 speaker cabinet).
At first glance, the ID:100TVP looks like a standard one-channel head, but the Voice, TVP (True Valve Power) and Effects control sections, along with a row of push buttons and a mini USB jack under the EQ section, reveal that it’s much more than that. The ID:100TVP is actually programmable, providing direct access to 12 programmable presets from the front panel and a total of 128 presets via USB or MIDI. The rotary voice control lets users select six different primary gain “channels” (Clean Warm, Clean Bright, Crunch, Super Crunch, OD 1 and OD 2), and the TVP control lets you tweak tones using the characteristics of six different tubes (EL84, 6V6, EL34, KT66, 6LB and KT88).
The EQ section consists of the standard bass, middle and treble controls, but the patented ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) control lets users adjust the response of the entire tone stack and customize it to their preferences. Other “standard amp” controls on the front panel include gain, volume, resonance, presence and master volume. Up to three different effects—modulation, delay and reverb, each with four selectable variations—are available simultaneously. Each effect has its own front panel push button, and the front panel provides effect type and effect level controls for adjusting the most recently selected effect, as well as a tap tempo button for adjusting speed and time parameters of the modulation and delay effects, respectively. Available modulation effects consist of phaser, flanger, chorus and tremolo, while the delay section offers linear, analog, tape and multi delays, and the reverb section provides room, hall, spring and plate settings.
Other features of the ID:100TVP include a tuner mode, two parallel speaker outputs (minimum load of four ohms), and footswitch, MIDI in, line in and emulated output jacks. The USB jack allows you to connect the ID:100TVP directly to a computer to record audio directly to digital recording software or use the free Blackstar Insider software to program and save 128 amp presets or transfer audio between the ID:100TVP and computer for re-amping functions.
Despite offering some very sophisticated functions, the ID:100TVP is as easy to use as most single-channel amp heads. I was able to navigate the various presets and dial in the exact tones I wanted within seconds of powering it up (without consulting the manual). A few minutes later, I had already saved 12 of my favorite sounds, accessible via the front panel bank and channel buttons. Connecting the ID:100TVP to a computer is similarly simple, as it’s compatible with any standard audio driver.
Being able to save 128 sounds and re-amp tones via USB are very cool features, but more importantly the ID:100TVP delivers where it matters most by providing a wide variety of awesome tones and the responsive, musical feel of a genuine tube amp. Unlike digital amp models, which often provide an unsatisfying facsimile of a real world amp, the ID:100TVP provides users with the tools to build their own amps and use their ears to come up with sounds. The TVP section is particularly powerful, and I loved how I could go from the warm, compressed character of EL34 tubes to the dynamic response, brilliant treble and tight bass of KT88 tubes at the flick of a switch. Pretty much every tone a guitarist needs lurks within the ID:100TVP’s settings, from razor-sharp funk and country twang to raunchy classic-rock crunch and blazing modern-metal distortion.
List Price $839
Manufacturer Blackstar Amplification, blackstaramps.com
The ID:100TVP is a 100-watt programmable head with Blackstar’s TVP (True Valve Power) and ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) technology, 128 available presets and a versatile selection of built-in effects.
Six channels provide a selection of clean, overdrive and distortion characteristics, while the TVP sections offers a selection of six different tube characteristics.
Free Blackstar Insider software makes it easy to program, access and save 128 different presets and provides re-amping capabilities via USB.
Modulation, delay and reverb effects can be used simultaneously, and a tuner function is accessible from the front panel.
The Bottom Line
With its versatile tone palette, TVP tube emulation, memory for 128 sounds, re-amping capabilities and built-in effects and tuner, the Blackstar ID:100TVP is a true all-in-one amp with the uncanny tone and feel of a classic tube amp.